Reflection – Why Did You Stop Being Creative?

As the year draws to a close like the end of a roll of toilet paper, I am running a series of three posts about the creative life: Reflection, Resurrection and Recreation.

Reflection addresses those who have stopped creative activities, while Resurrection (Sunday) addresses the need to stop creative endeavours. It all leads to New Year’s Day (Tuesday): Recreation.

Reflection – why have you stopped being creative?

Have you paused to ask yourself why you stopped being creative? Has your once prolific creative output reduced from a torrent to a dribble? Or is the well of creativity nothing but a cracked dust bowl?

Here are five reasons you have stopped being creative (and a plea to start being creative again):

1. Logic and Reason Replaced Emotion and Passion

Once upon a time, perhaps when you were a child or a teenager, you were passionate about creating something: you wrote or painted or composed or gardened. Whatever it was, you were passionate about it; you engaged emotionally with your creative process.

But that passion and emotion you threw into creative endeavours was replaced with the cold push of logic and reason. Artistic, creative people were typecast as overly emotional, passionate and highly illogical.

You were encouraged to put away childish things and focus on more adult pursuits. Emotions are considered primitive brain responses to be suppressed, ignored or detached. The Vulcans have a lot to answer for; I’m looking at you Spock.

Creativity gives equal balance the emotions and to logic and reason. Great art comes out of logical, reasoned thinking AND impassioned, emotive thinking.

What you create is a product of your logic, reason, emotion and passion. Tap into it again.

 2. Career Over Hobby

What did you dream about doing as a child? Did you want to paint? Design clothes or fashion? Did you want to write?

These pursuits are often considered a hobby, not something you make a career from. Too often creativity is seen as a hobby, a pastime to be indulged in during holidays or the occasional weekend. It is not valued as worthwhile because it at best it does not produce income, or at worst, it costs money, time and effort.

Instead our chosen career path dominates our time and resources, pushing creative endeavours to the periphery. The regularity of what we do for a living is a drain on our time and resources. If you have a family, there are still greater demands on your time. The chance to be creative is reduced, pushed out as a thing you do when you have the time or the inclination.

Being creative is something you make time for. It refreshes and rejuvenates. It is not a hobby to be done in spare moments; it is a vital extension of all facets of your life.

Rediscover the joy of your hobby.

3. Pragmatism Over Recreation

When was the last time you did something creative simply because it felt good for you? Or did you feel guilty, feeling like you should be doing something more productive? Have you put pragmatism over the need for recreation and rest?

We are obsessed with knowing, with proving something through empirical data and evidence, hypothesis and conclusion. We do something because it is proven to be beneficial or productive. Creativity does not easily fall into a pragmatic category therefore people are wont to give it up.

Creativity is not neatly defined by a formula or pattern. Creativity is a chance for recreation, to pause, to rest, to have a sabbatical.

Because you can.

Because you need to.

Your best reason to create is “just because.”

4. Utilitarianism Over Culture

In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” utilitarianism creates a consumptive culture: If it is not for the greater good, if it is not productive and beneficial, if it does not advance, it is not deemed worthwhile.

Culture is not measured in scientific or technological progress alone. It is measured in the greatness of art produced. Poetry, art, philosophy, literature, film, drama are the benchmarks of a culture. The paucity of good art needs addressing because we have made creativity and art something we consume, a fast food meal. Creativity can never be mediocre.

In recent years, especially in Australia, the government’s investment in creative activities such as literary awards has waned. Funding cuts to reduce budget deficits hit creative spheres first. They are deemed unimportant. (The rights and wrongs of this need not be debated here; there are other ways to fund creative projects).

The culture of a society, a community, a family and as an individual, is created consciously and unconsciously. If you do not participate and contribute to a creative culture, another culture will dominate.

Creativity can appear to be frivolous and wasteful, a solo production without discernible benefit to someone other than the creator.

Take a risk and develop a positive, creative culture. Start with yourself then extend it to your family, your community, your society.

5. Structure Over Boredom

Throughout our infant and adolescent lives, we are run by timetables. School provides a rigid structure, chronicling where we need to be at any given moment. A university timetable is less rigid, and a workplace gives broader latitude, yet the moments of our day are accounted for.

We fear boredom if our children are not engaged in a meaningful activity. Boredom promotes creativity (when was the last time you were bored), allowing the subconscious time to percolate, compost and rejuvenate. Stimulus is good for the brain but it also needs to rest.

Have you filled your life with so many activities you do not have time to rest, to be bored in order to be creative?

Schedule some down time to be bored.

Final Thoughts

Creativity is not a tacked on adjunct to life; it is an integral part of it. To lessen its role in our lives is to diminish the fulfilment creativity brings. Creativity brings life, that you may live it to the full.

Creativity is not self-centeredness but a means of recreating yourself and the world around you.

Will you dare be creative again?

20 responses to “Reflection – Why Did You Stop Being Creative?

  1. I ran out of time. I know the inspirational blogs will always tell you to make time but sometimes other obligations wring out every last drop of free time, leaving no room for anything else.

    • Time is one thing we all wish we had more of and making time is impossible. I understand it when obligations wring out every moment of free time, but I know you will always be a creative person. We get frustrated because we can’t do enough creative things.

      • We just have to find other ways to be creative. I get to play with Photoshop etc for my job and my camera phone makes photography possible anywhere – it’s just my writing that’s taken a hit.

  2. Great post:-) I’m looking forward to the following two!

  3. When I reflect on the times when I’ve been creatively bereft, it has been the times when I’ve been unsupported – either my creative life hasn’t been supported, or my life beyond has been so difficult there has been nothing left to invest back into my creativity.

    When there’s been little time, I’ve made five minutes to do something creative – day dream, doddle, write bad haiku, listen to a favourite piece of music – or to combine two things: washing up/laundry/cooking dinner, with day dreaming. Thinking we need great expanses of time in which to be productive and creative is one of those things that can stop us. I’ve been adept in the past at creating blockages to harness and participate and enjoy my creativity by growing and holding onto incompatible thoughts and beliefs.

    • Agreed. Little creative things can fuel the process without demanding huge chunks of time. We should have a Bad Haiku Week.

      • Haiku dragged me out of the creative wilderness during my last bout of depression – I didn’t have an emotional investment in it, I knew only the basics and it was something I didn’t have to take too seriously.

        It also got me looking at the world in a completely different way. It’s something I’m likely to never excel at – but by giving yourself permission not to excel and not to take it too seriously – its basically just a bit of fun.

        Totally on board for a week of Bad Haiku.

  4. The last two months have been a wasteland of creativity for me. I’ve been so overwhelmed by other pressures that even when I have a free moment, my mind obsesses over the pending issues rather than relaxing and allowing me freedom to be creative so I’ve filled my time with other things in order to escape the pressure. Some of those pressures are easing now and will continue to do so in January and I’m hopefull that I can get back into the rhythm of creating.

    • I completely understand the pressures of life that dominate and push aside the very thing that can bring us joy. I’ve found with teaching that there are weeks in the term when I know doing some writing is all but impossible, and I give myself permission to let it slip for that time.
      Sunday’s post deals with this in a lot more detail.

  5. Love the post and the comments. I think this year’s creative drought has been a combination of a whole lotta things you mentioned. I’ve felt incredibly isolated creatively, my expectations of myself have probably been unrealistic and I’ve had enormous external issues to manage. I lost the joy of writing this year and it shows. I think maybe I’ve been trying too hard, if that makes sense. In the coming year I hope to replenish my creative well, rekindle my love of words and find the joy I once knew in writing. Looking forward to the next instalment 🙂

    • I had a year like that last year Karen. It’s when I bring the image of the phoenix in… to know it is possible to rise from the ashes and shine again. 2012 has been a stellar year for me… proof rising from the ashes is possible.

      • The Phoenix imagery is perfect, Jodi. And I’m so encouraged by your journey. Part of me wonders if falling apart is essential to become who we really are… It’s just very painful to go through. Best wishes for another stellar year for you!

      • I think falling apart is almost an essential part of our growth and stripping off each time an outer layer we no longer need…a chance to move closer and deeper to our most authentic selves.

        If we look at the natural order of things death and decomposition are all part of the cycle of life. That doesn’t mean it has to be easy and I’m certainly not barracking for anyone to fall apart. But I guess a gentle acceptance that this too will pass, that fertile times and abundance follow make the bitter pill just a little easier to swallow.

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  10. An absolute great post! Thank you. I am just getting back into writing…although I randomly write and post my poetry on my facebook. I look forward to more.

  11. I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing not to be creative. I used to write and draw frequently but I no longer find these activities meaningful so I gave them up.

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